The legal and moral perceptions of clinical and non-clinical undergraduates regarding substance use: a pilot project

J. Puryer*, Andrew Rowley, J. Saimbi, A. Waylen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Introduction Heavy alcohol and illicit drug use has been documented amongst medical and dental professionals and educational programs have been developed to attempt to reduce such behaviour in clinical undergraduates. This pilot study aims to investigate the legal and moral perceptions of substance use in clinical and non-clinical undergraduates.

Method A cross-sectional self-report questionnaire was administered to 107 clinical and non-clinical undergraduates to investigate their moral and legal perceptions of alcohol and illicit substance use.

Results More clinical (72.5%) than non-clinical students (66%) drink alcohol regularly. Both groups perceive ecstasy, cocaine and ketamine as 'high risk' drugs. A third of both clinical (34%) and non-clinical (36%) students support the legalisation of illicit drugs. Forty-seven percent of non-clinical students would consider changing their behaviour if illicit substances were legalised compared to 32% of clinical students. Clinical students believe the legal punishment for Class A drugs is appropriate, but disagree with that for Class C drug use. Personal values of clinical students differ regarding some immoral activities. Social perceptions of illicit substance users are similar for both clinical and non-clinical students with those who use heroin perceived most negatively by 86.5% of all undergraduates.

Conclusion Individual substance use behaviours may be influenced by legal perceptions of illicit substance use. Personal values and social norms are also likely to be important. Further research is required to investigate how these perceptions affect a clinical student's decision to participate in excessive alcohol and illicit substance use behaviours.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-204
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Dental Journal
Issue number3
Early online date10 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017


  • Undergraduate
  • Behaviour
  • Substance Use


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